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Death of the Checkout Operator, Birth of the Concierge


New Research Into UK Shopping Habits Highlights that Need for Speed is Driving the iPod Generation’s Call for a Redeployment of Supermarket Staff

17 Oct 2006 - PLANO, Texas – Tomorrow’s shoppers want a faster grocery shopping experience with more in-store technology and staff deployed differently to improve customer service. This upcoming generation of impatient teens wants to be able to shop and go – with someone on hand to pack their bags, load their cars and pick-up the items they have forgotten.

Research carried out for the global information technology services company EDS1 by IGD (the Institute of Grocery Distribution), shows that 59 percent of 13-19 year-olds – tomorrow’s shoppers – want little or no staff involvement in their shopping experience. Of this group, 66 percent would like to self-scan their purchases rather than wait in line to pay a checkout assistant. However, of those who still want human interaction, 57 percent want staff to pack their bags.

Despite a strong acceptance of self scanning, 40 percent still want human interaction while shopping, but they want staff to be deployed differently. The research shows that of those opting for continued staff involvement, improved customer service is required:

* 45 percent of teenagers want staff to take shopping to their cars
* 41 percent want staff to get products they have forgotten while they are in line at the cash register

Need for speed

The need for speed of a generation weaned on high speed internet access and mobile phones can be addressed through the introduction of additional in-store technologies. Focus groups with 13-19 year-olds revealed in addition to self-scanning, teenagers are interested in other ways technology can speed up their shopping visit:

* 48 percent of teenagers looking for human interaction would like call buttons in aisles so they can call for staff to help them in their product selection

Of those who want little or no staff involvement:

* 26 percent want automated shopping carts that direct them to their chosen items with 16 percent calling for satellite navigation on shopping carts
* 22 percent would like to see information terminals throughout the store
* They also want a computer to create a shopping list based on previous shopping (17 percent), in-store promotions (13 percent), and preferred brands (12 percent)

“What we are seeing here is the movement of information technology (IT) from the point-of-sale to the point-of-pick,” said Jeff Wacker, EDS Fellow and the EDS Futurist. “Currently, a shopper is not influenced by IT until he or she pays at the cash register. With RFID chips, ‘loyalty’ bar-coded cards and shopping cart computers, IT could influence a shopper’s overall experience by allowing immediate interaction – guiding the shopper by his or her personal influences.”
On the money

In terms of different payment methods, teenagers still favor paying with credit and debit cards, but many say that in future, they would like to use biometrics – fingerprint (17 percent) and iris recognition (seven percent) – to purchase groceries. Fear of mobile-related crimes – last year 710,000 mobile phones were stolen in the UK2 – has created a reluctance to pay with existing mobile technologies, such as mobile phones and watches that automatically link to their bank accounts. There is no indication from respondents that we will be a cashless society in ten years time as 39 percent of teenagers and 30 percent of adults said they are still likely to use cash.

“The research shows that tomorrow’s shoppers will be even more demanding than today’s – and that retailers will need to meet their demand for immediacy to thrive,” said Gerardine Padbury, senior researcher at IGD. “These shoppers have never known a world without the internet or the mobile phone, and they expect technology to serve them in store just as much as in the home.”

Other research findings revealed that:

* Despite the common preconception that teenagers and adults have different shopping habits and preferences, this research concludes that today’s teenagers think like their parents. The views of adults and teenagers on most issues raised in the interviews and focus groups are closely aligned
* Brand image is important to both adults and teenagers, but the research shows that teenagers are more influenced by advertising than their parents – 60 percent of teenagers believe that good advertising has an impact on brand image compared to 45 percent of adults. Half of teenagers (50 percent) and 35 percent of adults will go to a different store if the brand they want isn’t available, which highlights the importance of ensuring that items are on the shelves
* Despite the backlash against supermarkets and accusations that they are killing off smaller stores, people like the supermarket format – 62 percent prefer hypermarkets and just four percent favor the convenience store set up. In ten years’ time, over three-quarters (79 percent) of us will be shopping in supermarkets for at least some of our groceries (32 percent of respondents say they will shop exclusively in supermarkets) with just three percent favoring specialist outlets such as butchers, bakers and greengrocers. Twenty-six percent of teenagers will include specialists as part of their shopping repertoire. Even for supermarkets, convenience is still king. People put the preference for store choice down to convenience of location (60 percent), low prices (56 percent), variety of branded products on offer (48 percent) and good parking facilities (43 percent).

A copy of the full report is available on the Consumer Industries & Retail page of EDS.COM.

EDS serves more than 200 consumer and retail industry clients and generates more than $1 billion in revenue in the Consumer Industries & Retail sector annually. As a leading provider in the consumer and retail industry, EDS focuses on a variety of market segments including food/beverage, apparel/footwear, consumer products and all retail outlets including restaurants, mass/department, grocery, drug, convenience, online/catalog and specialty.

1 EDS sponsored the IGD to carry out face-to-face interviews with 1,000 people – 500 adults aged 25 to 40 and a further 500 13-19 year olds, supported by nine focus groups with both adults and teenagers

2The Home Office, 2006
About IGD

IGD is an international food and grocery expert providing research and business learning for the retail and manufacturing sector.
About EDS

EDS is a leading global technology services company delivering business solutions to its clients. EDS founded the information technology outsourcing industry more than 40 years ago. Today, EDS delivers a broad portfolio of information technology and business process outsourcing services to clients in the manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, communications, energy, transportation, and consumer and retail industries and to governments around the world. Learn more at

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